Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick unloads on the state legislators who rammed through an impeachment of Attorney General Ken Paxton after his acquittal on all 16 charges on Saturday.
“Members, I have just a few minutes of comments. About five minutes,” he said. “I’ve been unusually quiet for the last three months since the House of Representatives sent the articles of impeachment against Attorney General to us on very short notice in the final hours of the regular legislative session. The law requires the Senate to receive the articles and have a trial, and once I realized I would be the presiding officer and judge, I thought it was my duty to be quiet on this issue. Otherwise, how could I oversee a fair trial? I’ve done my very best to do so the last three months, especially the last two weeks. Now the trial is over. I want to take a few minutes before we close to put a few remarks in the court record for future legislatures to read in the event of another impeachment one day on both what the House and Senate did.”
“I’ve spent most of the last 90 days, as many of you have, preparing for this trial,” he added. “I’ve issued over 240 subpoenas. I’ve studied numerous motions, written multiple orders, read hundreds of pages of history, rules, documents, and worked on every detail of this trial with you and with our incredible Secretary of the Senate, the clerk of the court who turned this chamber into a courtroom and her great staff. I have had a total view of this process from the very first day, the House sent over the articles of impeachment to us in May.”
“With all due respect to the House, we didn’t need to be told in the final arguments how important this vote was,” he continued. “I believe the quote was, ‘this will… be the hardest and most difficult and the heaviest vote that you’ll ever cast in your time in the legislature.’ This vote will be the vote you’re remembered for most’.”
“Our members already knew that and have known that for the last three months,” he went on. “If only the House members who voted for impeachment would’ve followed that instruction in the house. We may not have been here. In the House, the vote to send the articles of impeachment against the Attorney General to the Senate happened in only a few days with virtually no time for 150 members to even study the articles.”
“The Speaker and his team rammed through the first impeachment of the statewide official in Texas in over 100 years while paying no attention to the precedent that the House set in every other impeachment before in the past,” Patrick said. “The House had transparent and open investigations for all to see, including other House members. The target of the investigation was notified and invited to attend with counsel and given an opportunity to cross-examine witnesses that were placed under oath before testimony was taken. At the conclusion of past House investigations, the evidence was laid out for weeks for House members to evaluate, not hours before they took their vote on articles of impeachment.”
“Representative John Smithee, a longtime House member who has argued cases before the Texas Supreme Court, spoke on the House floor during impeachment vote in May,” he added. “He was one of only 23 who voted against impeachment. Representative Smithee said the House could not legitimately impeach General Paxton on the record because there was no record sent to the Senate. He said ‘the House was not following the rule of law.’ He said, the House’s approach — and I quote Representative Smithee — ‘hang them now and judge them later’.”
“Representative Smithee told his fellow members the House process was indefensible,” Patrick would go on to say. “Representative Smithee said the House did not follow the rules of evidence, and their case was based on ‘triple hearsay’ that would never be allowed in court. I think Representative Smithee’s speech was one of the most honest and courageous speeches I’ve ever heard of in the House, and if you want to watch it online, go to YouTube.
Look up John Smithee. That’s his floor speech on the Paxton impeachment. It’s an amazing, courageous speech to give when he knew he was only one of 23 not voting for impeachment.”
“In the next regular session, we should amend the Constitution,” Patrick said. “The issue of impeachment is currently written that allowed this flawed process to happen. Any testimony given in a House impeachment investigation must be given under oath and the target of that impeachment must be allowed to present with a lawyer to cross examinee the witnesses. Otherwise, people can say anything they want without any accountability or need to be truthful. Because there is no threat of perjury.”
“The House must also give members a minimum of two weeks to review all evidence given under oath before voting on such a serious matter,” he added. “Had they done those two things, this trial may never have happened. And when the House sends articles of impeachment to the Senate, if they do in the future, the officials should not be put on unpaid leave through the process. The federal system does not allow that. Why do we allow that in Texas?”
“President Clinton and President Trump did not have to step down from the Oval Office from their duties during their impeachment process,” he noted. “And members, this is not a partisan issue. We owe it to future legislatures to make these changes so that no future official impeached by the House, whether Republican, Democrat, or independent, is subject to the way this impeachment process occurred in the House.”
Then, Lt. Gov. Patrick called for a full audit of the Paxton impeachment.
“This year, millions of taxpayer dollars have been wasted on this impeachment,” Patrick said. “31 Senators and a large Senate staff that made this trial possible have put their family life, their jobs, their business will hold for the last three months after already being here from January to June.”
“I’m going to call next week for a full audit of all taxpayer money spent by the House from the beginning of their investigation in March to their final bills they get from their lawyers,” he said. “We will provide our cost as well that were forced on us by the House impeachment. One big difference. We didn’t pay a huge team of outside lawyers and investigators. We did it mostly with our own staff, working endless hours with no extra pay.”
“As Representative Smithee, he said, ‘this is not the way it has happened in the past in the House.’ That’s why I believe we’ve only had two prior impeachments. Our founders expected better. It should have never happened this year, and hopefully it doesn’t again unless we address this in the Constitution.”
After eight days of testimony from both sides, a total of 30 state senators cast their votes on Saturday to either “acquit” or “remove from office” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton based on “16 articles of impeachment.”
The Texas state senators voted to acquit Paxton on all counts.
Additionally, the state Senate decided to “dismiss” the four articles of impeachment that were “held in abeyance” with a 19–11 vote.
“Today, the truth prevailed. The truth could not be buried by mudslinging politicians or their powerful benefactors. I’ve said many times: Seek the truth! And that is what was accomplished,” Paxton said in a statement after the acquittal.
Attorney General Ken Paxton will now be able to resume office and get on with doing the business of Texans.